Understanding Twills: Left Hand Twill, Right Hand Twill, Broken Twill

When you weave together cotton warp yarn and white cotton filling yarn you get a 90 degree diagonally interwoven pattern called twill. But that’s not where it ends. Given the intricacies of denim fabric and how it is used in construction, which direction the yarns are woven is incredibly important and not to be overlooked. Not only does it play a pivotal role in the how soft the denim will feel, but it also impacts how the wear patterns will look and wear over time.

As it’s such an important component of raw denim, we succinctly walk through the three main types – Right Hand Twill, Left Hand Twill, and Broken Twill.

Right Hand Twill

Right Hand Twill on a pair of Iron Heart 15oz Right Hand Twill Straight Leg Jean

Right Hand Twill on a pair of Triple Works 15oz Right Hand Twill Straight Leg Jean

Right hand twill (RHT) is the most common and can be easily identified by the diagonal pattern that moves from the bottom left of the fabric to the top right. This style was made also famous by Levi’s and has become the industry standard amongst many denim producers.

Right hand twill, or “Z-twill”, has a flatter and smoother surface than the other types of twill. One differentiating characteristic is how much tighter and compact the RHT is due to being woven with S-twist yarn; which is spun counterclockwise, and creates more defined fades.

Left Hand Twill

Left Hand Twill on a pair of Naked & Famous Left Hand Twill

Left Hand Twill on a pair of Naked & Famous Left Hand Twill

Conversely, Left hand twill (LHT) or “S-twill”, is woven in the exact opposite direction as RHT, starting from the bottom right and moving up to the top left of the fabric.

Denim powerhouse, Lee, originally used LHT, which has an even softer feel than right hand twill because it is woven with Z-twist yarn, which is spun clockwise. If a left hand twill denim is worn heavily over a period of time, the end results typically carry fuzzy, vertical fading.

Broken Twill

Broken Twill on a pair of Tenue de Nîmes x Rogue Territory Broken Twill Jeans

Broken Twill on a pair of Tenue de Nîmes x Rogue Territory Broken Twill Jeans

As of the last of the three twills, when you combine RHT with LFT, you get the memorable broken twill. First used by Wrangler in 1964, broken twill alternates left and right at every two warp ends to create a peculiar zig-zag pattern.

The premise behind this twill was that it would help combat twisting after washing denim present with right hand or left hand twill; after the denim is washed it tends to twist due to tension of the fabric.

Ryan McDermott

Ryan McDermott

Ryan McDermott is a writer and journalist living in Washington, D.C.

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  • Chris

    Nice and simple. I approve.

  • cyberdude

    I could be totally wrong here, but my understanding was that the yarn is the same for both left- and right-hand twills. The entire reason why a left-hand twill is softer than a right-hand twill is because a right-hand twill tightens the twist of the yarn, stiffening the denim and a left-hand twill slightly relaxes it. resulting in a slightly softer fabric.

    If, as the article says, right-hand twill uses s-spun yarn and left-hand twill uses z-spun yarn, there would be no difference in the resulting fabric (other than the grain direction) because using an opposite-spun yarn for an opposite weave would produce the exact same tightening or loosening effect on the yarn itself.

    • Jonas

      The twist is more common alwas z-twist I think, So if the direction of the twill is right it will force the weave slightly to the right and the z-twist (countercklockwise twist) will loose up clockwise (right) and will make the warp line more straight then a right hand twill with z-twist. But why not try s-twist with right hand twill :)

      • Jonas

        Or totally wrong to :)

  • BillygoatsGruff312

    Those are triple-works, not ironheart.

    • http://www.rawrdenim.com Rawr Denim

      Thanks, good catch. We’ve revised the article.